It’s rare that the World Championships comes to our doorstep in the UK so it’s time to make the most of it. “There are usually 50 club members who go to Majorca in September but we’re all staying home to watch the races and go riding all week,” Jill Birch of Otley CC reveals.
We think you should do the same so we’ve collected all the expert knowledge on the best places to ride and designed our four routes for you to ride and then pull up and watch the action.
Some of the routes are a bit challenging – this is Yorkshire and there are few flat roads around – so feel free to do them on alternative days if you prefer so you aren’t in danger of bonking and missing the action.
As many places are sold out for accomodation we’ve based everything around Ripon, where some rooms can still be found. It’s got good transport links too so it’s ideal. Clip in and enjoy it.
Tuesday, September 24 – World Championships: elite women’s TT, men’s U23 TT
Our ride: 57.3km in North Yorkshire
Yorkshire may be known for its hills, but those taxing gradients don’t have to be tackled every day you’re in the saddle. Flatter rides on quiet country lanes can be just as enjoyable, especially when they take in the historical architecture of the region’s castles and National Trust parks that celebrate nature at its most spectacular.
Ancient buildings and monasteries are just as much an appeal of Yorkshire as its sublime landscape. With that in mind, once you leave Ripon’s beautiful Spa Gardens (our recommended starting and meeting point), head south towards the village of Littlethorpe and join Pottery Lane.
Think quintessential English village roads: narrow, hedgerows, ducking in and out of forest cover. “There are so many nice lanes around here that you can get lost in them forever,” former pro Dean Downing remarks. “There’s barely any traffic on these roads which is the best thing about them,” Otley CC’s Jill Birch says.
Turn left on to Knaresborough Road and at the approaching crossroads continue straight as you pass through Bishop Monkton.
After crossing over Apron Lane, turn right and after two kilometres merge onto Stainley Lane, before turning right onto Brearton Lane.
Stone walls and farms frame the view as you ride through Nidd, just a matter of minutes from Ripley. Pull into 14th-century castle in the village that is home to the highly acclaimed and ever-popular tea room.
Set in the middle of a charming garden and parks, it is a mythical-looking castle that will have Instagram users impressing their followers with their pictures.
While in Ripley, find a spot to stop and watch the men’s U23 time trial which will pass through between 10:24 and 12:10.
After the last rider has passed, the B6165 towards Bedlam will temporarily reopen and you are to use this time window. After just a few hundred metres, turn right onto Scarah Bank that leads into Hebden Bank. Turn left towards Bishop Thornton and stay on Colber Lane as you enter the Nidderdale region.
Expect sheep grazing on farms, expansive greenery and very little noise. It is here, as you pass Warren Forest Park, you will experience your first climb: a three-kilometre slog that gains 80 metres with a middle section of 12 per cent. It’s nothing for Yorkshire, but it’s a good leg-tester.
As you begin to ease, follow signs for Brimham Rocks. A spectacular site of rocks moulded into peculiar and weird shapes that looks like it belongs in Utah, this writer frequented the National Trust sites throughout their childhood, once getting stuck in a wedge between two rocks for what felt like an eternity to a then-10-year-old. Recreating the drama of the film 127 hours was not what was intended. Enjoy a coffee at the site as you admire the formations.
Exit the car park, turn right and then follow Brimham Rocks Road for 5.5km until you join the B6165 at Burn Yates. There will be a road blockage here as the women turn left to Clint Bank (14:57-16:20). Being forced to brake as they turn will allow you ample time to get a close shot of the rides.
Cheer them on before you turn left onto the winding Pye Lane towards Bishop Thornton once again. Cross over the T-junction towards Markington, ride past How HIll, and Fountains Lane will takae you into Faountains Abbey, an 11th-century monastery, which is just five kilometres from Ripon.
Wednesday, September 25 – World Championships: elite men’s TT
Our ride: 124.3km in Yorkshire Dales
Rohan Dennis will defend his time trial title on a course that is undulating but devoid of any major climbing, a profile that is vastly different to our day in the North Yorkshire Dales.
The epicentre of the country’s greatest riding, the pelotons in the 2014 Tour de France and every edition of the Tour de Yorkshire have tested themselves in the Dales, each time destroying riders’ ambitions and leaving several cursing the unrelenting brutality of the terrain.
Climbing is the order of the day, and the first 20km are progressively uphill as you leave west from Ripon on the B6265, turning right onto Galphay Lane, away from the traffic and into the countryside.
After riding through the village of Galphay, turn right onto Warren Lane and head for the pretty village of Laverton. You will steadily climb back towards the B6265 that will take you into beautiful Pateley Bridge, listed by the Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in the north.
On your ride through the market town, turn right onto Low Wath Road. Rather than continuing on the same road, though, be sure to take Grange Lane instead for what lies in store is a relatively rare commodity given the extra profile awarded to Yorkshire in the past half a decade: a climb that few people know of. It’s an ascent that comes recommended by Cappuccino CC’s James Lovell. “It’s only been tarmacked and therefore open to cyclists for about 18 months. No one knows about this climb and I’m in the top 20 on Strava’s leaderboard when I’m usually about 3,000!” he reveals.
At 1.4km, the road’s gradient doesn’t fluctuate too much, remaining around seven per cent before it dops down towards Gouthwaite Reservoir. Continue straight and take the second right to Waterboard Road, also known as Scar House Road.
Not as unknown, but still not residing on any of the region’s must-climb lists partly due to its out-and-back requirement, this six-kilometre effort isn’t going to force you out of the saddle but will rather have you turning your legs at a steady cadence, allowing you to enjoy the views as you approach Scar House Reservoir.
The road is a dead end, so turn around and enjoy a pleasant descent until you reach How Stean Gorge, home of what some people claim is the best beans on toast in Yorkshire. “The views from Heathfield are amazing and these roads take you properly into the wilderness. Enjoy the scenery,” Lovell advises.
After replenishing your food stores, return to Lofthouse and turn left onto the famous 3.1km Trapping Hill, renamed Côte de Lofthouse for the visit of the Tour de Yorkshire in 2017, when Lizzie Deignan used the punishing 17 per cent gradients to her advantage to attack en route to victory.
You’ll be grateful for the descent as you cross over Leighton Reservoir and turn north towards the picturesque town of Leyburn where you will tackle Whipperdale Bank. At 2.1km there is only 83 metres of elevation gain but it is a road that doesn’t seem to ever level out as you work your way towards the quarry that marks the summit.
Return back to Leyburn and then it’s a speedy run into Masham, the Dales rising sharply to your right. Nick Hopkinson, chairman of Wetherby Wheelers, says: “There is fantastic but distracting scenery.”
It is here where the time trial will pass between 13:37 and 15:22, and if you fancy a coffee break, Suncatchers in the centre is a good spot. When the last rider has passed, take the A6108 all the way back to Ripon.
Saturday, September 28 – World Championships: elite women’s road race
Our ride: 1o8km in North York Moors
The new women’s world champion will be decided after 158.5km of racing that takes in the Yorkshire Dales and folkloric roads in the area. For us, though, it’s a trip out east to the North York Moors to ride a triangular route of three iconic local climbs.
The Moors have been used in the Tour de Yorkshire and the eastern side of the National Park hosts part of the iconic Scarborough stage that has forced professionals to laugh at its absurdity.
A special, demanding but rewarding place, Jack Rees, rider for Ribble Pro Cycling, uses a trio of climbs in the west as part of his training. “There are three climbs — Sutton Bank, White Horse and Boltby Bank — that you can ride in a triangle and most people avoid them because they’re hard. But it’s amazing up there and the Moors has got everything.”
Beginning from Ripon, take the A6108 east and then the B6267 that will take you over the A1 (M). Pedal towards Thirsk, a charming market town that sits on the periphery of the hills that loom.
The flat parcours then rises sharply, when you approach the village of Felixkirk. Don’t let a brief plateau deceive you, however, as Boltby Bank soon strikes.
Averaging a challenging 13 per cent gradient, with a brutal maximum of 25 per cent, you climb 160 metres in just 1,200 metres. The country road is as punishingly steep as it reads; there aren’t many climbs tougher than this in the UK.
Fortunately, the ensuing six kilometres on Cleveland Road are gentle and then you descend White Horse Bank. Savour the thrill of the speed, for you will be pushing yourself up the same road in a short while.
Turn left at Kilburn and then take the first right that will bring you out onto the A170. A much busier road, turn right to join Sutton Bank, a climb that featured in the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire, attracting thousands of spectators.
Rees says: “Sutton Bank is similar to the Lake District: it’s really steep and not so short. It’s a slog, and make sure you don’t underestimate the hairpin.” It’s so steep, there’s a sign warning against caravans using the road. Look right as you ascend and you’ll see the White Horse hill figure looking back at you.
A similar climb to the last, the two switchbacks are its defining features as you climb back up onto the Moor that opens up into an expansive view.
Once you’ve topped out at the summit and passed the Sutton Bank National Park Centre, continue on the A170 until you turn right, following signs to Ampleforth. Descend into the village and pull into Kirks Coffee House, a popular haunt for local riders.
Tuck into some grub as the remaining 45km includes one final climb: White Horse Bank. From Ampleforth head west, then pass the fascinating Byland Abbey which is worth a brief stop and photo.
At Kilburn, stick right as you climb up White Horse. More twisting than the previous two, the gradient is testing once more before it subsides at Yorkshire Gliding Club Airfield. From here, turn left to descend Sutton Bank.
It’s a left again and then a right as you power back to Ripon, continuing through Bagby, Dalton, Topcliffe and Rainton, merging with the A61 to take you back into the city where the women will race through between 13:52 and 14:06. If you’ve still got the legs, you could dash 20km to watch the finish in Harrogate.
Sunday, September 29 – World Championships: elite men’s road race
Our ride: 123km in the Yorkshire Dales
While the elite men thrash each other on a tour of Yorkshire prior to seven undulating laps in Harrogate that will determine the new wearer of the rainbow jersey, this ride will take you up five great climbs in the Yorkshire Dales.
Don’t expect an easy day before you take position in the centre of Harrogate to watch the pros, though. As Jill Birch of Otley CC quips: “Yorkshire people are too tight to do bends and hairpins so we just go straight up hills!
“An average ride around here climbs 1,000ft every 10 miles. There’s not a lot of flat and the more you ride the hills – especially when they’re 10 per cent gradient – the better you get, really.”
Starting from Ripon, head west on the B6265. Continue through Pateley Bridge and begin the four-kilometre ascent of the feared Greenhow Hill that averages seven per cent. “There are sections of 16 per cent and the pros cracked on it during the Tour deYorkshire. Over the top it is draggy and exposed,” is the assessment of Paul Lamb, manager of SwiftCarbon.
Enjoy a gradual descent high up the moor for eight kilometres before turning left at the signpost for Burnsall. At the T-junction, turn left and follow the road until it heads north again as you go through Skyreholme ahead of the day’s second climb.
This is a different direction to reach the noted Greenhow Hill from, and it’s just as difficult. “There’s a little kick at the start that gets the legs going and then it touches nearly 20 per cent. It’s quieter than Greenhow Hill and the scenery is unbelievable,” James Lovell of Cappuccino CC says.
Rejoin the B6265 and at the summit of Greenhow Hill turn right and descend into the village of Blubberhouses. Continue riding south and you will climb Askwith Moor. A slow-burner, there is a section in the middle creeping beyond 12 per cent that will see you out of the saddle.
Upon reaching Ilkley, the next obstacle to negotiate is the infamous Cow and Calf, a 1.8km climb that averages an eight percent gradient and has a number of savage bites. Long since spoken about in hallowed terms among locals, stage two of the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire finished atop its slopes Megan Guarnier and Magnus Cort both held their arms up beside the boulders overlooking the Wharfedale valley.
That’s not it, though. Descend into Burley-in-Wharfedale and follow the A660 into Otley to drag your tiring legs up the 1.8km Otley Chevin. Also used frequently in the Tour de Yorkshire. Dean Downing advises: “You need a lot of power and energy in your arms and legs to get up these sorts of climbs.”
Upon cresting the summit, exhale and get ready to watch the pros. Join the A658, turn left onto the A61 briefly and then left again towards Burn Bridge. Continue past a roundabout until you reach Otley Road where the riders will race on as part of the finishing lap.
Park up your bike and join the thousands occupying a position by the roadside to watch seven thrilling laps that will determine the winner of the men’s race. The Prologue Performance Cycling Cafe is a prime space to grab a coffee, a bit to eat and watch the racing on the TV for when the race isn’t roaring past you.
Once you’ve seen the winner crowned, reflect on the week’s riding and racing as you ride back towards Ripon via Knaresborough and more of what you’ll be accustomed to now: peaceful, scenic country roads.
Dinner hot spots
In the host town of Harrogate, Saranda serves up a menu of a different kind, with dishes inspired from Greece and Albania. The restaurant has been winning plaudits since it opened last summer, with succulent meat dishes starting from £12.95 and vegetarian options from £9.95.
Also in Harrogate, the Tannin Level has been one of the town’s best-loved eateries for over three decades. Using seasonal ingredients and meat from local butchers, the Yorkshire lamb rump is a favourite. Don’t miss out on the cheeseboards, too.
Realitea in Ripon is a tea room (perfect for a mid or post-ride stop) that turns into a top-rated Indian bistro in the evening. Boasting a menu with over a dozen separate dishes – approximately 70 per cent of which are vegetarian – customers can even bring their own alcohol to enjoy with their meal.
For something upmarket, head to the Star Inn in the village of Harome, close to Helmsley in the North York Moors. One of Yorkshire’s five Michelin star restaurants , its produce is sourced locally. Meat from Yorkshire farms, fish from the North Sea and herbs directly from the facility’s gardens, starters start at £8 and mains from £19. It’s not just the food that is a draw: the building dates back to the 14th century, offering a historic setting.
Places to stay in Yorkshire
There is a shortage of places left to stay in Yorkshire during the Worlds, so book quickly to guarantee accommodation. Ripon and the Bedale areas have the most options, giving riders quick access to the Dales and Harrogate, while the North York Moors aren’t too far away, too. We have listed a few accommodations that we would recommend.
Dragon House Guest House is one of just a few places still available in Harrogate. Centrally located with bike storage.
The 18th-century Old Coach House is a luxury five-star bed and breakfast that has secure bike storage.
Mallard Grange Farmhouse B&B is ideally located near to Fountains Abbey. Smoked salmon, haddock and kippers are offered for breakfast alongside typical options, while packed lunches can be ordered. It offers bike storage.
The Woodman Inn is further north close to Bedale, and is part of a sociable pub. Storage and washing facilities are offered, as is a locally-sourced breakfast.
Bank Villa is a Grade II-listed Georgian guest house on the edge of the Dales that serves a delicious, wide-ranging complimentary breakfast that will set you up for your day’s riding.
Bike storage and washing facilities are available.